This morning, I had the opportunity to sleep in. I woke to the sound of my wife getting ready for work and watching the news. She passed on the news that Laura Ling and Euna Lee are on their way home from being captive in North Korea. It is a good day. What could be bad about that?
Well, apparently it can be bad, because according to the Republicans, sending Bill Clinton to speak to the North Koreans was wrong because it gives that countries leaders opportunities to use the release and photos of Kim Jong Il and the former president as propaganda tools.
Come on, seriously? Since when does a nation that operates by means of propaganda need a photo opportunity to get it done? Truth has nothing to do with it. Besides, wasn’t the fact that US journalists were being held a propaganda gold mine in itself that never had to end?
It occurred to me that the opposition provided by the far right in this country is nothing more than a reconstruction of the Monty Python comedy sketch, The Argument Clinic.
For those unfamiliar with The Argument Clinic, a man enters the clinic and pays to have an argument. He is mistakenly directed to a room where someone heaps derisive insults on him. When the mistake is realized, the man is directed to the argument room next door. In the argument room, he receives an “argument” almost entirely based in simply denying what he says…”yes it is”, “no it isn’t”.
Democracy, to be effective, requires opposition. Opposition that provides reasonable debate upon which change, compromise and solutions can be built.
The far right, in finding a derisive term to label supporters of things they oppose; in seeing only darkness in the release of freeing innocent citizens from imprisonment of foreign nations; in sending groups to shout down instead of participate in discussions of issues facing our country, have put The Argument Clinic into operation as a political strategy.
You support health care reform? Socialist.
Journalists are freed by discussion instead of posturing and bluster? Awful! Now they’ve got a propaganda tool!
Leaders providing an open forum for discussion? Shout them down and simply label every word they say as a lie.
Anything productive there? Something to build upon? I’m not seeing it.
In the Argument Sketch, the character calls the employee on the fact that he isn’t providing an argument, but merely contradiction. He puts forth that “an argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.” A short time later, the employee says he has to “take up a contrary position” in order to argue, and returns to simply denying whatever the other gentleman says.
The far right seems bent on only taking up a contrary position. Bringing forth reasoned debate that can lead to compromise and improving the lot of both sides isn’t valued.
I grew up loving Monty Python. I love The Argument Clinic. I’m fairly certain the sketch wasn’t written as a playbook on how to run the loyal opposition from either side in a democracy.